A patient at a hospice in Mapperley will today (13) embark on a remembrance tour of the Normandy beaches where he took part in the D-Day landings 74 years ago.
Ray Mellors, who is a patient at Nottinghamshire Hospice, has not been back to France since he fought in the allied invasion of Western Europe, responded to a call for surviving World War II veterans to join tours provided free by the Royal British Legion with funding from the Treasury.
Ray, who sets off on the trip today (13), said: “Even though I said when I got home after the war I’m never going to cross that channel ever again, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for years. I seriously never thought I’d go back. It means such a lot to me after all these years.
“You can’t imagine how much I’m looking forward to it. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years.”
Ray, with others from the South Staffordshire Regiment, landed on Sword beach in Normandy shortly after D-Day and was heavily involved in the liberation of Caen before moving further into France and on to Belgium. He later joined Blackwatch regiment and took part in the Rhine crossing.
His week-long tour will take in the five Normandy beaches of Sword, Juno, Gold Utah and Omaha as well as Bayeux Cathedral and Bayeux War Cemetery. His trip will also take him to Caen – the first city liberated by his regiment.
Ray’s daughter Sharon, who is also his carer, spotted the Royal British Legion appeal for veterans and booked him onto the tour. Tours typically cater for 10 veterans, with a support team including a medic, a senior member of the Royal British Legion and an experienced tour guide. Each veteran can take a family member and carer, and hotels are carefully chosen for comfort and convenience with accessible walk-in showers.
Nichola Rowlands-Smith, Head of Travel at the Royal British Legion, said: ”It is very emotional and cathartic for veterans to do these tours. Often the things they remember are not macabre but funny stories – we encourage that kind of remembering.
“By the end of the trip there is such camaraderie among the veterans, they are all sharing stories. It can be very different to their life in the UK where they may be isolated. They are treated like celebrities by the French people who come out to meet them and ask for their autographs!”
Liz Morgan, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Nottinghamshire Hospice, said: “It’s important for patients to take opportunities like this while they can. Ray’s really excited about the trip and all the other patients and staff are excited for him.
She added: “We can’t wait to hear all about it and see the photographs when he gets back.”
Journeys of Remembrance are available for all ex-servicemen and women who fought in WWII to return to where they served free-of-charge. To discover more, visit www.arenatravel.com/our-holidays/remembrance-travel.